Date of Graduation

Summer 2016


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

John Rose


In October of 2001, an American unmanned aerial vehicle was credited with the first 'kill' by a drone strike, setting off an enduring debate on the role of unmanned systems in warfare. Over a decade later, the number and capability of unmanned systems have grown and are rapidly expanding in use worldwide, the proliferation of weaponized ‘drones' now extending to non-state actors as well as nation-states. This thesis examines the current and future state of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) and the argument that the development and deployment of LAWS should be subject to an international prohibition until the facets of their use are more completely understood. Because of a lack of consensus on even basic issues surrounding LAWS, a ban on LAWS at this time appears premature and the U.S. could advocate for transparency and confidence building measures as an interim step while discussion on the issues continues.


Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems, LAWS, unmanned systems, killer robots, drones, UAV

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


© Kenneth Brandon Turner

Open Access